Australian Open Ditches William Hill Ads Over Betting Backlash

Posted on: December 10, 2016, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: December 10, 2016, 09:49h.

William Hill Ads Will Not Feature at the Australian Open
Images such as this, heavy with William Hill branding, will not be seen at the forthcoming Australian Open in Melbourne. But did the bookies get the blame for various tennis authorities’ failure to investigate corruption within the sport? (Image: Associated Press)

The Australian Open tennis championship will not feature courtside advertising for British bookmaker William Hill when it gets underway in Melbourne next month.

The prominence of William Hill’s billboard branding came in for a wave of criticism at 2016’s tournament as it coincided with revelations of a possible large-scale match-fixing cover up within the sport.

It was alleged that betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy, and Sicily had made hundreds of thousands of dollars betting on games that investigators suspected had been deliberately thrown by players.

While there was no suggestion that Hill’s was involved in any way with the alleged infractions, many felt it inappropriate that a bookmaker should have such high visibility at a time when the sport was forced to confront questions about its own integrity.

Ultimately, the bookies got the blame for the failure of various tennis authorities to investigate and discipline their own athletes.

Whistleblowers’ Dossier

In 2016, William Hill became the first ever official sponsor of the Open from the betting industry, a sponsorship deal that was rumored to be worth around A$5 million ($3.73 million).  

But just as the Open was getting underway last January, documents passed to the media by whistleblowers revealed that 16 top level players had been strongly suspected of throwing matches over the past ten years and that authorities, knowing this, had failed to act.

The documents claimed that these players had been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TUI), which led to cries of a cover-up at the highest level.

While the names of the players were unpublished, the BBC said that eight mentioned in the dossier were due to take the court for at the Open.

The Solution, Not the Problem

Tennis Australia President Steve Healy confirmed that the decision to pull advertising was based on the backlash against the ads.

We need to put it in perspective; the arrangements that were struck with William Hill [were] before this issue had such a high profile, and so we’ve worked with our partners to address that,” Healy said.

William Hill has accepted the decision and is actively supporting the sport’s anti-corruption campaign, he added.

In January William Hill responded to the backlash by emphasizing the fact that bookmakers work closely with sports governing bodies to fight corruption.

“Close partnerships between regulated and licensed betting operators like William Hill and sporting bodies are part of the solution to integrity issues, not part of the problem,” William Hill’s Director of Security and Community, Bill South, said in an official statement.

“We have comprehensive information sharing agreements to inform the sport’s integrity bodies, and for the sport to promote licensed operators is key to ensuring transparency,” he added.